Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Computer Sciences, *pedagogy

Publication Details

Journal of Peer Learning (2022) Vol 14: 52–70


Access Foundation Programmes are a widening-participation initiative designed to encourage engagement in higher education among under-represented groups. This includes socioeconomic and educational disadvantage. Mature students in particular enrolled on these programmes experience greater difficulties making the transition to tertiary education, especially when they opt to study disciplines traditionally considered difficult. Computer programming is perceived as a traditionally difficult subject with lower pass rates and progression rates typically than other subjects.

This paper describes the first of a three-cycle action research study examining the perceived effects of a structured Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) Programme for mature students enrolled on a computer science programming module on an Access Foundation Program in an Irish University. The focus of this qualitative study was to evaluate the perceived effect a PAL program on learning and whether it offered a positive learning support structure.

Findings from our study suggest that PAL programmes have an overall positive effect on subject comprehension as well as enhanced learner confidence for mature Access Foundation students. PAL sessions also offered students a support structure that helped with their transition and acculturation to tertiary education. This study also highlights the importance the role the PAL Leader has on the perceived effectiveness of the PAL sessions and the impact the student's shared history has on the near-peer bond. The study concludes that the implementation of PAL programmes for Access Foundation Programmes has the potential to offer mature students a supportive learning environment and to improve their learning experience.